Colour for every space
Gardeners World|December 2021
In the final part of her series, Carol Klein shows you how to put colour theory into practice no matter how tricky your plot

Everyone has their own colour sensibility, their own preferences, their own taste. Who knows whether or not our common colour language actually equates to the same colours perceived. Let's hope it does. We use a common language to talk about it and share an enthusiasm for using it, though every one of us has our own colour sense and our own way of applying it in our gardens.

Colour plays a vital role in all our gardens, whether it is cunningly conceived or accidentally achieved, the first impression that we receive, be it in our own gardens or anyone else's, is of colour. As our intellect gets to work and takes over, other aspects take on greater significance.

Our brains may register form, pattern and stature, but perhaps colour has the greatest effect. So how do you use colour in different locations to manipulate the space or respond to the specific conditions? Can colour make a small garden look bigger? What colours work best in a shady spot? Certainly food for thought.

"You need to deal with succession. It is an exciting adventure to think about how plants will follow one another"

FOR A LARGE PLOT

Using colour in a big garden is a luxury few of us have, but one that needs to be embraced on a grand scale- no point thinking small here. Here, large blocks of colour can be used, which means lots of plants are needed. Unless you're a millionaire, propagating your own plants is the best solution. Those millionaires don't know what they're missing! Choosing plants that clump up quickly is a winning policy and using a range of plants with diverse habits, heights and deportments helps, too.

Gertrude Jekyll planned some of her borders as a spectrum travelling through the rainbow, though blue and indigo never met; they were at either end of the border. This is just one idea.

You need to deal with succession. It is not a problem, but an exciting adventure to think about how plants will follow one another and the different stage one plant will have reached when its neighbour begins its best display. Nothing is static - colour in any garden changes from week to week, month to month, season to season.

In a big garden there's the opportunity to be adventurous; you also get the chance to create the kind of mood and effect you want and perhaps that should be the starting point for the colour that will predominate. Plant in big drifts, but not of the same size. Edit the varieties you use, rather than turning your garden into a collection, and limit the colours you use. Repeat plants at different intervals to establish rhythm.

RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE

Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow'

Produces a mass of small flowers over a long period on sturdy stems. Reliable, clump-forming, bushy and attractive to pollinators. Award-winning and easy to grow.

Flowers Aug-Oct

Height x Spread 90cm x 45cm

Phlox paniculata 'Eventide'

There are a huge number of varieties of Phlox paniculata. Almost without exception, they are good doers and will tolerate most conditions, though they appreciate the addition of plenty of organic matter at planting time. Mulch well. Basal cuttings, taken in the spring are the best way to increase them.

F Jul-Sep H XS 90cm x 40cm

Astrantia 'Roma'

Providing your soil is not too dry, astrantias are excellent clump-forming perennials that multiply fast and are simple to lift and divide. A. 'Roma' is a sterile hybrid and if you cut off the fading flowerheads at ground level you're almost guaranteed another flush of the pretty pink pincushion flowers.

F Jun-Sep H XS 60cm x 40cm

FOR A SMALL SPACE

Although planting for colour in a small garden might seem an easier task than in a big garden, it's actually more difficult. You need to be more discriminating; there's less room for combinations that don't work.

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